Languages

(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

Language as a means of peace-building: A case for school curricula in Sri Lanka

Summary of research carried out: 
Language as a means of peace-building: A case for school curricula in Sri Lanka

The objective of this research is to review the Sri Lankan the second national language curriculum in comparison with the Singapore second national language. Singapore is similar to Sri Lanka in two aspects: both countries are island states and have multicultural societies. Singapore’s language policy aims at cultivating bilingual proficiency in the English language and a mother-tongue language of each ethnic community. While English is a language of instruction, the mother tongue is used as a second language.

I visited Singapore as part of my research study to gain first-hand experience of language education. On the first day of my visit (1 July 2014), I went to the National Institute of Education (NIE) to meet Dr Chew Lee Chin, Sub-Dean for graduate studies and professional courses. Dr Chew was the supervisor of my research study in Singapore. After a discussion on my programme of visits for data collection, she took me on a tour of the campus and I had the opportunity to observe the various sections of NIE, including its facilities. 

Punggol Secondary School in Singapore was selected for my school visit and research to observe three language classes. I was there on 2 July 2014 and met with the principal and the head of the language department, together with Dr Chew. She introduced me and my research work to them.

I first observed a three-period class in the Chinese language from 10.55 a.m. to 12.10 p.m. There were 40 students (20 girls and 20 boys) in that secondary 1A classroom. The 13-year old students were in an “Express” course of study and class observation was done using a prepared observation sheet and with the help of a translator who provided a Chinese-English translation of the teacher’s lesson plan and explained the teaching-learning process observed in that class. I next observed a three-period class in the Malay language from 12.10 p.m. to 1.25 p.m. There were nine students (7 girls and 2 boys) in that class. These 13-year old students were in a normal academic course.

Both the Malay and Tamil language rooms had displays of cultural items including musical instruments, pictures, and clay pots used by people in each community. During the two days, the three participating mother-tongue language teachers were given a questionnaire and their completed questionnaires were duly collected.

The principal of Punggol Secondary school invited me to the school’s annual concert in celebration of Youth Day. The two-hour concert event was held on a Saturday afternoon (5 July 2014), showcasing students’ artistic and creative talent in a number of cultural performances such as role play, dramas and the playing of classical instruments.

I was at NIE on 7 July 2014 and had a one hour interview session on the Tamil Language. On the next day (8 July) I had two more interview sessions, on the Malay and Chinese languages.

After completing my research study visit in Singapore, I returned to Sri Lanka on 9 July 2014.